Sunday, September 9, 2012

Art and Monasticism

September seems to be a season for the arts here at the Monastery. We are privileged to have 6 artists, writers and filmmakers joining us for the first ever “Artist Residency” program. Today we welcome back the Gonzaga University Choir for a concert. The arts are everywhere!

At first there doesn’t seem to be much connection between art and monasticism. But by bringing the arts into this sacred space the intersection between people living a life focused on God and the lives of those who are focused on creativity begins to become clear.

Those of us who are monastics lives a simple, disciplined life focused on God. All aspects of monastic life are structured to allow us to make faith the focus of our lives. We order our lives in such a way that we can focus our energy on being open to God’s re-creating, transformative power. We live simply, in community, sharing all our resources and creating structured, consistent time for prayer and contemplation.

 Perhaps the life of the artist, writer, musician is not so different. For people serious about their creative work there is a monastic asceticism as they structure their life around their discipline. To enter deeply into any kind of art means to sacrifice other things. An artist isn’t one who dabbles occasionally but is the person who is drawn, even driven to create, to bring something new to birth. The artist is a person of vision and vision requires discipline, sacrifice, commitment to be made real.

Both monks and artists of all types are drawn, perhaps driven, by the transcendent. Whether the force that beckons them on is named God or is a more personal vision, it is always something beyond, something that transcends the complacent here and now where many people seem content to dwell. Both prayer and creativity are expressions of a primal feeling that there is something more, something that may be hard to express or articulate but powerful and compelling. In prayer and creativity we are drawn to enter the deep realization of trying to express our deepest longings, joys, fears and insights. In prayer and creativity we take the risk of opening ourselves up, of listening, of being transformed and offering our gifts on behalf of the world.

So today and in these weeks the monastics of St. Gertrude’s are given the gift of sharing our way of life. The musicians and artists join us for prayer and Eucharist. We are able to give of ourselves by offering space and the sharing of who we are. And in this mutual gift giving something new is being born as together we are witnesses to what it means to live lives focused on the transcendent.

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